But taking it easy for Dempsey is better than full speed ahead for most runners. Last winter, playing basketball and running track, she relaxed her way to a second-place finish in the 600-yard run at the indoor state championship meet. On Saturday, at a meet at Kutztown University, Dempsey was up to her old tricks, finishing second in the 600 in 1 minute, 32 seconds. The winner was William Penn's Blythe Crawley (1:29).
Earlier in the meet, Dempsey ran a leg on Cheltenham's 3,200-meter relay squad and ran a very solid 2:32 split.
"I'm happy with how I ran," she said. "It felt good to be able to run the relay and then come back and run a good 600."
Dempsey broke the school record in the 600 at last year's state meet, running a 1:28.45 to top the mark set in 1989 by her sister Liz, who is running for Swarthmore.
"My main goal this year is to break that time, and it doesn't matter what time I get at the state meet," Dempsey said.
During the fall cross-country season, Dempsey was hobbled by tendinitis in both knees. That forced her to miss more than a month, and she was still not back up to top shape by the end of the season.
"To prevent it from coming back, I've been doing a lot of stretching, icing down my knees, and I also get ultrasound treatments," she said. "It seems to help, and I haven't had any problem with them so far."
Cheltenham coach Joe Fareira said Dempsey was right on target.
"Because of basketball, she doesn't get much time to train," he said. ''We're just trying to get her qualified for the state meet (which she did on Saturday) and give her a good base for the spring."
Fareira added that in the spring, he would like to see Dempsey tackle the mile. Like every other runner, Dempsey isn't too anxious to move up a distance.
"I really like the 800," she said. "It's the most challenging race since it's almost like an all-out sprint the whole way. But I'll try the mile."
Looking ahead to the next school year, Dempsey said her top three college choices were Penn, Swarthmore and the University of Virginia.
"All three are great schools and have real good track programs and coaches," she said.
Also in the meet at Kutztown, Cheltenham's Lisa Pressley, Duane Sims, Lanin Reviere and Christine Newman finished second in the 1,600-meter relay in 4:17.1. William Penn, which has the fastest time in the country this indoor season, won the race in a blazing 3:58.2. The Panthers' Jennifer Harris finished fifth in the 60-yard dash (7.7).
In the 60-yard hurdles, Wissahickon's Margaret Wilson finished third (9.4); in the 300-yard race, Plymouth-Whitemarsh's Annetta Thompson was third (38.9), and in the 1,600 meters, Hatboro-Horsham's Erin Carroll took fifth (5:38.2).